As one of the few players on last year’s roster who could be considered a good defender, Larry Nance Jr. was often matched up with All-Stars such as Carmelo Anthony. As a good friend of Kobe Bryant, it makes sense that the two would trash talk each other during games, but that move may have backfired on Kobe during one particular game this past season.
In a late season match-up with the New York Knicks, Carmelo had a huge fourth quarter that put his team in position to win. And apparently, it was some words from Kobe that lit the fire.
In a recent podcast with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Larry Nance Jr. spoke about the toughest players he had to guard, and remembered thinking he had held Carmelo in check, before his fourth quarter explosion:
“Carmelo was quiet. I thought I was doing a really good job on him for like three quarters of the game. I think he had like six points in three quarters so I was kinda beating my chest like ‘Yea, I did this.’
And then I think Kobe said something to him like, ‘You really gonna let the rook shut you down like that?’ And yes, 24 fourth quarter points later, we lost, and Carmelo just lit me up. I mean step-back threes, he was all in his arsenal and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Some clarification is necessary as Nance may have accidentally embellished the numbers a little. Carmelo had 12 points in the fourth, not 24 and he had 14 points after three quarters, not six. But he made only five of his 14 shots through the first three quarters, so it’s fair to say that Carmelo was somewhat struggling in the first three quarters.
Kobe goading his good friend Carmelo is just classic Kobe, but unfortunately for him, it didn’t work as Carmelo made sure it was known that the ‘rook’ couldn’t shut him down.